Lloyd: What Happened

Overview

Celebrated columnist Stanley Bing is an anthropologist of corporate culture, a satirist of corporate greed, a comedian of the libido. In his remarkable first novel, Lloyd: What Happened, Bing gives us the last word on business in America.
        
Brazenly honest and wildly funny, Lloyd shows us one crucial year in the life of an upwardly mobile executive for whom pain and gain walk hand in hand. Lloyd is...
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Overview

Celebrated columnist Stanley Bing is an anthropologist of corporate culture, a satirist of corporate greed, a comedian of the libido. In his remarkable first novel, Lloyd: What Happened, Bing gives us the last word on business in America.
        
Brazenly honest and wildly funny, Lloyd shows us one crucial year in the life of an upwardly mobile executive for whom pain and gain walk hand in hand. Lloyd is a pretty decent guy. He has an assortment of flaws. He's married, a little chunky, well into the mid-six figures, which sounds great but means only that he has to work harder every day just to stay where he is. He can see through the corporate veil of stupidity and brutality when  he wants to, which is not very often. He loves his wife and children and, suddenly, a senior financial officer named Mona.
        
Reeling toward the millennium in the era of gross, global consolidation, the corporation is on the verge of launching the most audacious transaction in the history of capitalism. They call it Moby Deal, and Lloyd is put in charge of making it all happen, a mandate he receives early one morning through the miasma of a let-me-die-now hangover. The good news is that Lloyd is perfectly suited to the task: he looks okay in a suit, can drink or eat just about anything that's put in front of him, and has a strong value system that has never stopped him from accomplishing any assigned duty.
        
Can Lloyd achieve Productivity? Can he get lean without being mean? Can he inspire increasingly greater numbers of people to do more for less while he himself does less for more? Can he gain the world without losing his soul? Can he keep his hands off a valued and extremely attractive associate?
        
Lloyd: What Happened is brilliantly and comically annotated with color bar graphs, pie charts, diagrams, and illustrated flourishes. It is the iconographic equivalent of an illuminated manuscript for the modern world, with a story that will make readers laugh out loud and cringe with recognition of every character and situation. Bing is a master storyteller and has written what is sure to be a classic of our time.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A mole inside corporate America since the days when greed was good, Stanley Bing has followed and chronicled business life, in Esquire and Fortune magazines. Now the anthropologist of corporate culture and satirist of corporate greed has written his first novel, Lloyd: What Happened.

Lloyd shows readers one year in the life of an upwardly mobile executive for whom pain and gain go side-by-side. He is a decent man with a wife and children as well as a mid-six-figure income, which may sound great, but it means only that he has to work harder every day just to stay where he is.

Approaching the millennium, in the era of global consolidation, his corporation is near the launch of the most audacious transaction in the history of capitalism. It's been nicknamed the "Moby Deal," and Lloyd is in charge of putting it all together, an assignment he fittingly receives early one morning while nursing a hangover.

Although Lloyd appears to be perfectly suited for this task, the question still remains: Can Lloyd achieve productivity? Can he get lean without being mean? Can he inspire increasingly greater numbers of people to do more for less while he himself does less for more?

Supplemented with color bar graphs, pie charts, diagrams, and illustrated flourishes, which add a deeper understanding and more laughs to Lloyd's every professional and personal crisis, Stanley Bing's story will make readers laugh — and cringe with recognition of every character and situation.


Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first novel, Bing, columnist for Fortune and author of Crazy Bosses and Biz Words, offers a light satire of business life packed with glimpses, both funny and appalling, into the mentality of six-figure executives among whom every word, smile, memo and drink has its valence in the game of status.

Bing's protagonist is Lloyd, a kind of middle-aged everysuit who's assigned a key role in a deal that will transform his corporation into a transnational giant and render its managers, including Lloyd, very rich. It will also, via the wonders of downsizing, result in personal catastrophe for thousands. Of course, this makes Lloyd feel bad, but what's a guy to do? He's got two kids who like toys and a wife who likes vacations. In the midst of the turmoil, Lloyd falls into an adulterous affair with Mona, a fellow exec, at the same time that he learns his wife is getting it on with the handyman.

But plot is not the point here. The book is really a series of digressions and skits in which Bing touches on various aspects of corporate culture in episodic, ironic fashion. There are visuals, too: a bar graph measures Lloyd's expenditures on toys for his kids against his disposable income; a diagram illustrates how not to work a party; a pie chart called "Things Eaten by Donna" breaks down his wife's diet into only three segments (salads, sweets, white wine). Many of the gags, visual and verbal, work, and much of the book is very funny. But by the time Lloyd at last engineers a revolution to kill the deal and save all the innocents from losing their jobs, one feels that 400 pages is an awful lot of space to fill with such a light lampoon.

FYI: Bing is a pseudonym for Gil Schwartz, director of communications for CBS Inc.

Joe Queenan
Lloyd, described as "a novel of business," is a 416-page account of a year in the life of a senior executive at a large multinational corporation....complete with witty graphs and flow charts.
-- Joe Queenan, The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Gassy, deadpan first novel, a tour de farce that both reviles and celebrates the pretentious, treacherous, and luxurious world of corporate middle management, revealed here by Fortune magazine's business columnist.

Bing (in reality Gil Schwartz, also an executive for CBS) offers a mostly plotless series of vignettes about a handful of feckless, back-scratching, buzz-talking senior executives at an unnamed, generic New York corporate conglomerate who are boozing, golfing, gorging, and fornicating their way toward "Moby Deal," a $100 billion multinational merger that just might make their company the world's biggest business entity. At story's center is Lloyd, a good-natured, contentedly married, brown-nosing laptop toter who's not too wise or too foolish to be anything other than he is (which seems mainly to be a translator of the tenuous lip chewings of his boss, Walt, into zingy corporate-speak). We watch as Lloyd and his fellows attend pointless meetings, wallow in overpriced hotel rooms, guzzle top-shelf liquors, and shed no more than a token tear as they fire thousands of loyal employees to "make the numbers" that their shadowy Chicago CEO, Arthur, wants to see. Bing's uproarious accounts of boardroom drivel and the sharply dressed buffoons that spout it are more than merely dead-on, he shows that such tactics, however silly, are the tools of a trade whose practitioners are always trying to prove to themselves indispensable. Lloyd ducks the vengeful schemes of his coke-sniffing subordinate Ron, parties heartily, takes his family to Disney World, heroically attends a meeting via cell phone from inside a stranded elevator, and ultimately kills Moby Deal when he learns it will wipeout the worthless chums he's grown to love.

A scathingly snide, occasionally grating send-up of American business thatþs rendered with expertise, affection, and flashes of satiric brilliance by one who's lived it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517703496
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/31/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.57 (w) x 9.68 (h) x 1.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Bing has been a mole inside corporate America since the days when greed was good. He has chronicled the life of a business animal for most of that time, first in Esquire and, for the last several years, in Fortune magazine. Bing is also the author of Crazy Bosses and Biz Words: Power Talk for Fun and Profit. This is his first novel.
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Table of Contents

CONTENTS
Introduction ix
January 1
February 59
March 79
April 97
May 136
June 153
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First Chapter

January

The first month of Lloyd's year begins on an auspicious note, with plenty of drinking, eating, and meeting at a corporate retreat in Pittsburgh. We meet Walt, Lloyd's boss, his associate and subordinate, Ronald Lemur, as well as the rest of the haute VPs that make up Lloyd's peer group.

Unfortunately, the final meeting of the three-day professional bender is one of those historic Roman senatorial sessions that leave half the participants bleeding on the sofas, one in which confrontation between manly men is the thing most excellent above all others. "Well, Jack," smooth strategic planners leer across an open table at a heretofore cordial associate, "as far as I can see, the general failure of the project was just the result of sheer bad management on your watch. Or maybe I'm wrong. Help me out here." And the other men hang back and watch how the targeted executive will handle the situation with his guts falling out all over his hands.

The word is reengineering, and it's just one of the really big themes, with surprising staying power. We get a pretty good peek at this particular reengineering session, where the decruitment of many, many people is discussed and a new organizational paradigm is implemented. Just as the newly focused, far more disciplined, and productive cadre of key executives is ready to leave the dead behind and march off into the future, humming, a new and menacing presence enters their midst. There is a power, it seems, above the one we know. And it comes from corporate headquarters in Chicago.

This chart reports the salient facts about the two chiefs of Lloyd's tepee. As president, and Lloyd's boss, Walt is the supreme temporal power, master of all reporting structures, owner of fierce loyalty from a very large crew, ring-giver, dread Lord of the material world. Doug, however, is God--unknowable, distant, often absent when needed most, tender to his creations whenever he possibly can be, and essentially malevolent. When he calls, one cannot choose but serve. Or can one? The sensible thing would be for these two enormously talented, driven, passionate, charismatic men to work together for the good of the enterprise. Which, of course, they do!

Lloyd Wakes Up

Lloyd opened one eye and looked at the digital clock. It was beeping. The television was on, as well. Wow, thought Lloyd. What time is it?

He sat up in one great lurch and peered into the darkened space before him. He could tell that outside the massive drapes it was bright morning. If he parted them just a bit, the ribbon of the Monongahela River would wink back at him. He could smell his own breath without putting his hand in front of his face.

"It's cold out there," said a very fat weatherman on the local morning news show. "You betcha," said the anchor. Then they both cracked up, as if some absolutely hilarious bon mot had passed between them. But nothing looked funny to Lloyd.

Lloyd was in Pittsburgh for a corporate retreat. It was hard to hurt yourself in a town like Pittsburgh. Although the drinks they served were tremendous--eight ounces of scotch in a twelve-ounce broad-bottom tumbler was common--they stopped serving them very early. Lots of guys balled out at 10:30 with a pack of yawning excuses. But Lloyd and Lemur had decided to hang tough. At midnight, Lloyd had given up on beer and moved over to martinis without any vermouth in them.

The pounding in his head was incessant. There was a tight, acid churning in the pit of his stomach. The slightest motion of his head produced a chasm not only beneath his feet but on both sides of him. He went into the bathroom and attempted to hurl, succeeding only in drawing 85 percent of his blood into his face and neck, which, in his condition, produced such exquisite pain, he gave up hanging over the bowl and sank to the floor, pressing his face against the cool tiles. He slept, awakening ten minutes later with a loud exclamation. "Buh!" Then he yawed to his feet and ran the shower as hot and hard as it would go. "I'm up!" he yelled to nobody in particular.

He remembered something about ladies dancing in a bar. A girl had sat down next to him. "Hi," she said. She smelled like powder. He remembered that the woman kissed him. "What was I thinking?" he said. He was aware in the shower that there was no blood at all in his face now, and that he was about to faint in a minute. He sat down in the shower. Maybe I'm having a heart attack, he thought. There was no aspirin.

"Ach," Lloyd said. He was on his hands and knees like an elephant, swaying into the main room now. All he wanted to do was make it to the bed and lie there until his head cleared. He brought the little tin wastepaper basket with him to put in the space between the two queen-sized beds. On the basket was an American eagle in a furled silver banner. It looked fierce. "Never," Lloyd said to himself. "Never, never." He lay down flat on his back on the bed and wrapped himself in the stiff quilt. The telephone rang. "This is your wake-up call," said the voice. "It's twenty-eight degrees in downtown Pittsburgh. Good morning!" Lloyd hung up.

"Christ on his cross," said Lloyd.

The telephone rang. "I just called in to see what condition your condition was in," said Lemur's voice.

"I hurt myself, Ron," said Lloyd. "I hurt myself bad. I don't think I can be doing that anymore. I'm too old and it's not good for my credibility as an executive. Who's going to take a guy seriously at nine in the morning who you saw barking like a dog six hours before at a fried-chicken restaurant?"

"You were magnificent," said Lemur.

He hung up. The clock suddenly erupted in furious beeping again. Lloyd jumped at least three inches off the bed. "Fat people who want to commit suicide! Today on Geraldo!" said the television set. Lloyd sat up. His head felt as if it were not connected to his body. His face felt very, very cold and his teeth were chattering. "I'm poisoned," he said. Hands shaking, he closed on a sock with an almost-imperceptible grip and began to dress. His meeting was in an hour and fifteen minutes. If he could dress, stand up without failing to his knees, walk without throwing up, exit the hotel without attracting notice, make his way to a convenience store to purchase aspirin and grapefruit Juice, walk in the fresh, cold air for a couple of minutes, make his way to Walt's hotel, go to Walt's room without collapsing in the elevator, enter Walt's room, seat himself, and deliver a complete briefing to Walt on the sixteen or twenty industry issues that might come up in his morning panel discussion with fellow executive vice presidents, he could come back to his room and perhaps grab a couple of z's before the 8:30 mandatory informal breakfast that preceded the three-hour financial review of all business units.

"I want to die," said Lloyd.

Lloyd Gets Out

It was a very fine day, notwithstanding. Clouds sprayed a bit of spume now and then, but the rest of the time it was quite pleasant; sunny, even, between the more extended periods of what would have to be called ... murk.

Lloyd felt terrible. There were no other people on the streets. Except, now he noticed, a man moving very slowly down the wide main thoroughfare, talking in a guttural snarl to himself about matters in which Lloyd was sure he had no interest.

The PPG building reared above his head, an ugly spire of glass and steel that was meant to look modern and grand, Lloyd supposed. The psychotic had noticed him across the open square and was sort of heaving sideways toward him with a menacing, determined expression. Lloyd sped up as best he could, but he by no means could summon the fortitude necessary to pick up his tempo beyond that of a common street whack.

Before he was halfway to his destination--a corner deli that seemed to recede as he hove closer to it--the beggar descended on him, murmuring something that could have been "Help me out help me out," except it had no consonants in it. "Here," said Lloyd, thrusting a handful of coins in the bum's open mitt.

"Hey!" The guy smelled like a wet dog. "This is a quarter, man!" The bum was working himself up, spinning and weaving.

"Get out of my face, man!" Lloyd screamed at the top of his lungs. He was clenching his teeth so tightly, his larynx hurt.

The bum hurtled backward. "Big time," he said. "No problem. God bless you, man, getting right, and Jesus talks to strangers," or some damn thing that Lloyd found not only incomprehensible but very annoying. "Here, man, I'm sorry, take a dollar," he said, holding out a piece of paper to the guy, who now appeared more like a classic harmless village idiot than a dangerous madman.

"Wow, man, yeah," said the bum. He took the paper and left.

Lloyd was freezing-cold and sweating profusely at the same time. He went into the deli.

In the Deli

The soft-drink refrigerator area was nearly as long as a football field. In the case, there was Coke, Pepsi, diet Coke, diet Pepsi, twenty-four different kinds of Snapple (some appalling), Orange Slice, Fresca (light and regular), Yoo-Hoo, a rainbow of cranberry derivatives, root beer, eight or nine different kinds of water--orange, prune, apple, grape--and, finally, grapefruit juice. Lloyd reached into the depths of the storage space and found that the beverage he wanted was just a hair farther than the last molecule on the end of his longest finger. "God," he said, and leaned farther in. For a moment, his fingers stuck on the metal of the freezing rack inside, then, at last, closed on an eight-ounce container. He reeled it back in, tore open the paper top on the side that said "Open other side," and drank until he had to pause to catch his breath. "Better. Ah. Ah," said Lloyd. A piercing stab of bright yellow pain had riveted the soft brain tissue behind his left eye.

He was thinking about how the loss of limited partnership deductions had put a massive, killing dent in the value of their commercial real estate portfolio. It was frightening. Why, if the entire load was for one reason or another called in, the exposure to the corporation could top out at $11 billion. Lloyd figured that at least two-thirds of it was bad. That, of course, would never come out. Rather, for that fact to be known, or, indeed, to make a difference, everything would have to conspire against the company in so many different ways, it didn't pay to think about it. It would be the end of everything.

Lloyd made his way to the front of the store. At the counter, he asked the Indian guy for some Advil. Lloyd ripped open the miniature bottle, thrust the cotton batting onto the countertop, poured three tidy little brown pellets into his palm, threw them down his gullet, and washed them down with an enormous bolt of grapefruit juice. "That's better," he said.

His face suddenly tightened, as if a sardine key had been placed behind his right ear and twisted, hard. He had once stood behind Frank Sinatra on line at a dry cleaners in Van Nuys, California. Behind each of Sinatra's ears was a hard-boiled egg of meaty tissue left over from the excess face he didn't need after the most recent of his face-lifts. Lloyd had at the time imagined those knobs being tightened to refresh Frank's looks. But nobody was tightening his ears. He knew that.

Lloyd's knees, never the greatest, had begun to wobble.

"Buddy, you okay?" said the clerk. "You look sick."

"I'm fine," said Lloyd, and lost all control of his legs. He would have slumped down like a large boneless sardine, but he had the presence of mind to grab the countertop.

"Come sit," said the clerk. He took Lloyd by the arm and led him behind the counter. Tucked in one tiny corner of the space was a comfortable armchair, blue once, maybe, now a torn, ratty thing that looked more like a pile of hay. Lloyd sat down in it and felt the coarse retro fabric of it under his forearms.

"Thanks," said Lloyd.

"Just don't rob me, man. My insurance doesn't say liable if I bring you in here."

Lloyd sat in the convenience store and thought about things. He didn't want to go to the meeting. It wasn't the first time he had been asked to do something he didn't want to do and had complied because it was easier to do so than to resist. Still, on some level, he was always resisting. That was his punishment for being a hypocrite, for wanting to be comfortable all the time. He was never all that comfortable, either.

At the age of eight, Lloyd had joined Little League. One of his clearest remembrances from childhood was the feeling that swept over him when, on a Saturday morning, the sun had sequestered itself behind a cascade of clouds and rain, thick, relentless walls of rain, came pounding down with no promise of surcease, black greasy rain that eradicated all hopes of an outdoor day. The sensation of running toward an infinitely distant first base as the softball he had socked almost to the parking lot of the Sunset Supermarket was retrieved by the deep center fielder, thrown to the kid playing short center, from thence to the second baseman, and then over to first, where Lloyd was either caught straining to force his foot to reach the bag in time or, having misjudged the whereabouts of the ball, had rounded first and was thundering toward second, only to be nabbed in a rundown ... Lloyd was slow.

"I've got to get up now and walk over to the Royalton," Lloyd said to the proprietor.

"The Royalton?"

"The hotel. Where is it?"

"You sure you don't mean the Windsor Court?"

Lloyd wasn't sure at all. What was the name of the hotel? He plunged deep into his pockets and hauled out quite a few minuscule scraps of paper with notes to himself on them. There was a parking stub, lint, a ball of aluminum gum wrapping, eight pennies, and a tiny ad for a 678-megabyte hard drive. No information about the hotel. "What do I owe you?" Lloyd said.

"Make it five bucks and we can call it even, dude." This seemed low to Lloyd for the amount of grapefruit juice and Pepto-Bismol he had drunk, and the gum he was chewing.

"Thanks, man," said Lloyd. "I feel better. You have no idea where this hotel I am looking for is?"

"No, man. What was its name again?"

Lloyd went out into the street and took a huge lungful of some of the crispest air he had ever hauled into his lungs. Around the corner, Lloyd found a huge hotel with a circular driveway and a gang of odd-shaped guys, mostly with big guts, in brown livery who were there to park cars or usher guests inside. They had gold buttons on their uniforms and looked basically pretty unfriendly.

Lloyd went straight to the reception desk and inquired if Walt was, in fact, there. He was. "Man," Lloyd said as he sat down in one of the comfy lobby chairs. He was hurting still, yes, but a fine crust of equilibrium had spread like rivulets of ice on a slowly freezing pond. If not jostled, it might serve.

In the Hotel at Last

The elevator was by Westinghouse. He liked that. He trusted the Westinghouse name because it evoked the days when household appliances were magical objects, really big toys grown-ups got to play with: washing machines, dryers. Why did grown-ups get so excited about them on game shows when they won them? They were useful, sure. But why jump up and down and scream about it?

Lloyd realized that he knew the guy across from him in the elevator.

"Do I know you?" Lloyd said to the guy.

"I'm Dick Van Patten." Lloyd immediately realized that it was, in fact, Dick Van Patten, and that he didn't know Dick Van Patten, not really. All he knew was Dick Van Patten's face from countless sixties sitcoms and game shows.

"I love your work" was all Lloyd could come up with, and not before a couple of floors had gone past.

"Thank you," said Dick Van Patten. He looked pleased. Lloyd got off on the fifty-second floor. The carpet felt ankle-deep. The corridor stretched off into the distance without end. Lloyd peered at the five-digit numbers that signified the direction he should go if he wanted to reach room 52876, the Matador Suite. Across from the elevator bank was a glassed-in room. THE SKYTOWER CLUB said gold lettering on the glass door. EXTENDED AS A COMPLIMENT TO THE MOST EXCLUSIVE BUSINESS TRAVELER. Lloyd looked at his watch, which read 7:56.

"I have four minutes," said Lloyd, pushing open the heavy glass door.

The place was jammed and there was fruit everywhere--bananas and pears and bruised red cherries, apples in red and green. On a sideboard that in the evening must have served as a bar was a splendid assortment of breadstuffs. There were croissants the size of footballs, so oily that the paper beneath them was a soft green, iridescent. There were some very strange bagels, quite plump, but also unexpectedly tiny, bagels that were never intended to receive anything but one bite-sized dollop of cream cheese, not lox or smoked salmon or gravlax with capers, bagels that were produced by people who had never had a real one, who viewed the object as an oddity that must be served to certain exotic guests from the East. There were enormous bran muffins with raisins so plump, Lloyd was suspicious of them, and baskets lined with cloth towels containing respectably hot toast, English muffins, and salt sticks. Behind the bar in a kitchenette, a large and somewhat haughty black man of about twenty-four years of age stood in a tall white toque, serving from steam trays of eggs, sausages, bacon, oatmeal, and what looked like grits and gravy. The smell of the hot food seated on those sweating metal trays began to hoist Lloyd's stomach from its seat in his midsection up through his esophagus to a point just south of his uvula. I can't hurl here, he thought to himself, not here. He sat down in a ridiculously roomy leather chair with brutal grommets that subtly impressed themselves upon his buttocks. His face had once again turned to the consistency and texture of Silly Putty. He even tasted Silly Putty. He found himself thinking about Silly Putty.

"All right?" It was a semielderly executive in a cream-colored business shirt, suspenders, and a bloodred tie. He was holding a Wall Street Journal folded vertically, a pair of angular reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose. Although it seemed impossible, Lloyd could swear the guy was laughing at him, not a big chuckle or anything, just a sort of gentle sneer of amusement.

"Yes," Lloyd said, looking up into those warm, gentle eyes. "Just popped in. Bite to eat. Sit and think. Nice room."

"Well, then," said the man, drifting across the room. He put down his coffee cup and paper and picked up a suit jacket so supple and dark, it was not a physical presence at all, just a spatial area that absorbed all light that came near. "See you later."

Lloyd wanted to be him, to be past the excess and sickness, past the riot of spirit, past all caring and wanting and fearing and full of nothing but the ease of it, fully in command of the fact that it was all just a game, like tennis, or golf, or poker. Lloyd knew that if the man he had just seen was terminated without cause this very morning, he would still be set for at least the next three years to do nothing but relax and think about what he wanted to do next. His heart ached. He pounded his chest for a while, trying to burp. Eventually, he did.

On the table in front of him were neat rows of newspapers and magazines, all the reading matter a learned businessperson would need to achieve the mythic state of perfect informedness mandatory for any who wished to achieve the true higher levels of omniscience necessary to conduct even a moderately successful business career. Lloyd picked up USA Today but couldn't really look at it. It was more of a prop. Just to sit there without appearing busy doing something was a clear tip-off that here was a dysfunctional individual of some sort who did not belong in these exclusive surroundings.

He was now five minutes late.

Outside, about a mile below, the Monongahela River met the Allegheny and the Ohio, forming the confluence of waters upon which stood Pittsburgh. Three Rivers Stadium yawned, empty and frozen in the early-morning mist. Traffic moved with stately calm to and from the tunnel that fed into the downtown area on one end, off to the ancient green hills of Pennsylvania on the other. I wish I could open a window, he thought. Of course, that was impossible. Once you get to a certain level of success in American business, no windows open.

"I gotta get out of here," said Lloyd.

And yet he did not go.

At 8:09 A.M.: An Almost-Tragic Mix-up

Lloyd knocked and waited in the hall for Walt to come to the door. Down the hallway, he saw the remains of several disgusting breakfast trays that had been shoved out of their rooms by people who had begun their day at an even more ungodly hour. Right next door, there was the detritus of a meal that had clearly consisted of steak, fries, and a bottle of red wine. Lloyd stared at the stuff. Next to a large piece of fat, there was a napkin crunched up and stuffed under a plate. It was encrusted with blood. Fascinated, Lloyd wandered over to the tray and bent down to verify his perception, which he was perfectly willing to classify as compromised. Kneeling down, he gingerly picked up a fork from the tray and poked the fabric of the napkin. It could be ketchup, he thought. But even at this close range, Lloyd had to admit that it could also be blood. If that was the case, it was certainly a lot of blood, covering fully a third of the napkin. It was a dark brown, no longer red, and caked into a hard crust. Lloyd's legs turned flaccid again, so he sat down in front of the tray, hoping the seizure would pass, or, rather, that he would regain motor function before Walt opened the door. Meanwhile, Walt was not opening the door. In an effort to pull himself back from the abyss, Lloyd put his hands out to steady himself and leaned up against the wall. Underneath his right hand, he felt the smooth plastic bag holding the complimentary Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He removed the paper from its bag and perused the front page. There was an update about some skin condition that had been brought to the attention of the American public by Michael Jackson, who apparently suffered from it on his penis.

"Gotta get up," he said to nobody in particular.

"Yo, sir." Lloyd looked up. There was a young black man with a shaved head and a nose ring looking down at him with concern. "Get you anything?" he said.

"No, thanks," said Lloyd. "Just stopped by for a second to, like, you know ... read the paper...." Lloyd felt lame. The guy has seen enough paralyzed bums in his life to recognize one, Lloyd thought.

"You know what room you lookin' for?" said the guy.

"Yes, I do," said Lloyd.

He hauled a small slip of paper out of his pocket and read off the room number aloud, ending with an unexpected hesitancy in his voice.

"You on the wrong floor, man," he said with a tinge of sadness. "You in the wrong wing."

"Wing?" said Lloyd. A tsunami of despair washed over him.

"Come on, pal, I'll take you there." Lloyd toyed with the idea of leaping onto the large platform cart the bellman was pushing, but did not.

"Big hotel," he said. His guide was moving swiftly down the hallway. Lloyd had to move along at what felt to him like the speed of light just to keep up. He saw now that he had been wrong about the guy's hair. He wasn't completely denuded of frondage. On the side of his head were the initials BZP in raised hair. Carving them must have been a labor of love for someone. The guy couldn't have done it for himself. He wanted to comment on the look, but didn't.

They came to the end of the corridor and turned left, walked for another couple of minutes, and found themselves back at the elevator banks just opposite the Sky Club. "Fucking elevators," said Lloyd.

"I hear you," said the bellman.

They descended back down to the lobby. It was 8:19 now and Lloyd was getting nervous. He had punctured the window of acceptable lateness two minutes ago. They went across the lobby, down into a conversation pit, past several stores and down a corridor lined with shops, and into another lobby just as big and pretentious as its sister. At some point, his guide had left his cart behind and was simply striding along, looking back every now and then to see if Lloyd was keeping up. "You go out clubbin'?" he said to the air in front of him.

"Oh yeah," said Lloyd, and tried to laugh.

"Ought to have signs or something," said the guy. Lloyd thought that perhaps he should ask the fellow his name, then thought better of it. Pretty soon, they would part, never to see each other again.

"Name is Bob," said the guy, giving Lloyd a serious start. Were his thoughts that transparent? They had climbed in the elevator to the same floor as in the other tower, and Bob turned to say good-bye. "This is it," he said.

"Thanks, man," said Lloyd. He pushed a ten into the guy's hand. "Thanks a lot."

"Call the desk anytime, man. Ask for Robert. If you, like, y'know, need help or something."

"I do, Bob. I do need help."

Walt

Lloyd knocked on the door and prayed to God that the human being who answered would be familiar to him. So little was. When one traveled, the world presented an alien face. T-shirts from New Orleans had greeted him in the Pittsburgh airport shop, for instance. He had been walking along at the W. H. Smith's, looking for a book that was not by John Grisham. John Grisham annoyed him because his books were set up in a large display that featured a life-sized picture of the author sporting a three-day growth of beard. With a three-day growth of beard, Lloyd knew, he would look about as fit for a marketing display unit as Koko the talking gorilla. And here was John Grisham with three separate books displayed, including his new hardcover, looking so tasty that Lloyd would not have found it surprising to have seen a stewardess humping that display. Bah. Right next to the Grisham thing was an entire shelf given over to stuff about New Orleans. Cajun pepper, shirts, skirts, little dolls with white Gallic faces, mugs, even jewelry, and banners that read I PARTIED IN THE BIG EASY, or some such thing. If there was any town in the United States of America that was less like New Orleans than Pittsburgh, Lloyd didn't know what it was. What was this stuff doing here?

"Lloyd," said Walt. He had opened the door and was standing in the portal with his customary uninflected expression, save for a slight turn of his lip. "We thought that perhaps you had died. Glad you didn't. Come on in."

Walt preceded him down the corridor that led into the foyer that opened into the sitting room that lay outside the bed chamber that took up two large rooms on the top floor. In the middle of the sitting room was a low glass table loaded with food. On the sideboard were coffee, juice, hot water. Walt had moved over to this dispensary and was carefully filling a cup with scalding-hot black coffee, probably the third on a day that would eventually contain no fewer than twelve such cupfuls, taken very hot, very black, usually while standing. "Have something," said Walt.

Walt looked terrific to Lloyd. He was fifty, not tall, really, but up there in the top part of the atmosphere, two inches above the heads of mortal men. Trim. Flat tummy. Like all gifted executives, he was capable of maintaining a shirt so white, you could almost see your face in it, crisp and cheerful and polished and substantial. Lloyd had tried many times to acquire shirts that made him look like this, but he had never succeeded.

"What are you looking at, white man?' said Walt affably. His eyes were plumbing the depths of Lloyd's physical presence, not simply taking him in but diving down beneath the surface of what appeared to be Lloyd into the inky black depths that lie beneath material existence. Lloyd knew Walt wasn't really looking at him, but into himself. Walt's personality was so huge, his body could not contain it. It filled the air around him, invaded the curtains, wafted out of the doorway and into the bathroom, where it took on a heavier scent of soap and aftershave. Right now, Walt's personality was seeping in long, delicate tendrils of green and light blue and wrapping itself around Lloyd, pulling him into a gentle, not unpleasurable hypnotic state of hyperawareness.

"I thought I was late," said Lloyd.

"Late?" said Walt. He took out a piece of Dentyne and mashed it up between his fingers thoughtfully, then popped it into his mouth. "I gotta hit the head," he said, stalking off into the next room like a man who had just been given his orders setting out on an important mission. Lloyd sat down on one of the comfy chairs and looked at the food.

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Interviews & Essays

On Sunday, May 3rd, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Stanley Bing to discuss LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED.


Moderator: Welcome to barnesandnoble.com, Stanley Bing. We are pleased you could join us online tonight to discuss LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED. How was your weekend?

Stanley Bing: It was great. We've had some good weather here in the New York City area, and as usual it's Sunday night, and it's a good time to interview me about business, because this is the hour when I usually start thinking about business, or drinking, or both.


Dierdre from Westport, CT: Your title causes me much consternation. Are we meant to read the "What Happened" as a question, or is it a statement, sort of like a plot. And who is Lloyd? I'm sure the title was a conscious decision, so what was the thinking behind it? I'm a big fan, Mr. Bing!

Stanley Bing: Thank you very much. And it's a terrific question. Lloyd is a person who nobody really knows -- he's not famous. He's not well known. There's no reason for anyone to know or care what happened to Lloyd. And for that reason I thought the title would do both of the things you mentioned. It would make you ask the question as in, "Lloyd, what happened?" or it would promise to tell you a story about a guy to whom something did happen. But most importantly it would imply that it was a story that you probably should know about, and I'm here to tell it to it you whether you need to know about it or not. This pretty much replicates the state of mind for most people in business, who generally feel that there is something really important that they don't know about that's about to come up from underneath and bite them in the butt.


Megan Deerling from Edison, NJ: I read your book and loved it. What a scream! Is there a particular person who inspired you to create Lloyd? If so, what does that person think of the character?

Stanley Bing: Well, there's a good deal about Lloyd that honestly is patterned on my perception, my feelings about things. My sense of what it's like to work, to have a family, to be a consumer and an American at the turn of the 21st century. So, when Lloyd goes into a grocery store and sees so many beverages that he nearly has a nervous breakdown trying to choose one, that's my sensibility at work. When Lloyd engages in marital infidelities or other horrendous acts of immorality, that quite obviously is not me, but a friend of mine who shall remain nameless, and he's actually quite pleased with the characterization. And finally, the character of Lloyd should be enough like every reader so that anyone can sort of feel that they're a Lloyd. I'm glad you liked the book, by the way.


Friedericke from Brooklyn, NY: I hope this question doesn't give you an existential crisis, Stanley Bing, but who exactly are you, and how did you get started writing these articles for Fortune?

Stanley Bing: Existential questions are my bread and butter. But all kidding aside, I took on this pseudonym in 1984 when Esquire magazine offered me a column. I was then employed, as I am now, as a mid-level droid in a gigantic business machine. I wanted to be as rude and unscrupulous as possible and thought it was safer to work under not only a fictitious name but a fictitious persona as well.


Zoe from Williamsburg: Mr. Bing, are there personal reasons for your interest in the self-serving side of the corporate world? Do you think your book can make a difference?

Stanley Bing: I'm not sure if any work of art or fiction can really make a difference. We're talking about an enormous impersonal machine that functions along economic lines and doesn't really require our permission to do its job. But inside that structure, every day, for every person, is made up of small decisions and choices and ways of approaching things. And I guess I've always felt that it's possible for people to do right in the little things. And maybe if enough people act with humanity or at least are irreverent enough to see the underlying nature of what they are doing, that life could be somewhat different. At least the quality of it. I suppose the short answer is that I believe it's still possible for people in any organization to have fun and to fight back, not necessarily in that order.


Edward Osborne from Newtown, PA: Throughout LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED, Lloyd seems to have this issue with mortality. Would you agree with that? Why did you decide to incorporate that trait into his character?

Stanley Bing: That's a great question. In fact, it is the issue of mortality that drives Lloyd throughout the book to some of the most reprehensible things. In the month of February in the book, Lloyd visits a friend in the hospital, and he sees a guy who he's always liked -- whom he's always seen in a business suit -- in his pajamas and bathrobe. And this so profoundly shakes him, this view of his friend's humanity disrupts his sense of order so profoundly, that Lloyd begins to look for short-term happiness in a way that ends up extremely destructive to everyone. So it is this feeling that death is nigh that motivates Lloyd. And I believe that knowledge of death is something that only some people are granted, and it changes them. It's not a happy gift, but once it's been imparted to you, nothing ever looks quite the same. And that's true of Lloyd and of me as well.


Emily from Decatur, GA: Reading LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED, I was reminded of Tom Wolfe's BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES and what that did for defining the Masters-of-the-Universe attitude of the 1980s. What do you think is the defining difference between the business attitudes of the 1980s and the 1990s? Paranoia, perhaps?

Stanley Bing: First of all, thank you very very much. I think BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES is one of the great novels of the 20th century. And it does define a certain place and time in the history of capitalism and the people who serve it. There is a difference between the 1980s and now. Back then, I believe, people were less contemplative, less aware of their own limitations and the limitations of the system. I don't think people in the 1980s though for five minutes about the morality of what they were doing. I think money was the total be-all and end-all. I think the world was a newer, shinier, and more shallow place. For better or for worse, I feel that the world around us right now is a little more weary, a little more complicated. People are searching not only for wealth but perhaps for something deeper, more lasting. And good. I think that maybe because we are ending a century, there is a sense that some of the core values that we used to find important are reasserting themselves. And frankly our entire boomer population -- this huge bulge of population -- is mellowing and maturing and asking the kind of questions that are inevitable when you get to be about 50. So I think the world is a little more philosophical, sort of. That's not to say there aren't a lot of pinstripe monsters wreaking havoc, and some of them are my best friends. And they are really quite nice when they have a few drinks in them.


Effie from Winnetka, IL: Do you have a favorite chart in LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED? Which one is it? Please describe it to us.

Stanley Bing: That's like asking a father which of his children are his favorite, but I'll try. I have several. I love the picture of Mona that's in the first slide show, because for me it's the perfect interface of business functions and humanity. I am also very partial to the chart that describes the things Lloyd really cares about up until the present day, because it shows that in the 1980s, moving through time, Lloyd cared about a whole bunch of things, including his house, his guitar, his wife, his children, sex, and death. In 1998, when the book begins, this very colorful chart has resolved down to two major concerns of Lloyd, and those are sex and death. And that's pretty much a prescription for disaster for anybody. And finally I am very fond of the organization charts that describe what Lloyd eats, because in their ridiculous profusion, they show what it's like to be a consumer in this day and age. I also like the medieval book of hours at the end. That pretty much includes almost all the charts in the book, doesn't it?


Administrative Assistant from Her Second Job: Just wanted to comment on the chart "People Lloyd May Scream At (Without Fear of Reprisal)." I liked the fact that secretaries held the power in that chart! Bravo!

Stanley Bing: As indeed you do. The one group of people who can strike fear into the heart of a guy making $5 million a year is the executive assistant that rules the top floor.


Dorian from Hanover, NH: I've read a lot about what Mr. Gil Schwartz feels about Stanley Bing. Just curious, what does Stanley Bing think about Gil Schwartz?

Stanley Bing: First of all, I spent two summers in Hanover, New Hampshire, and love it dearly. So hello, up there. That's a very interesting question. I don't believe I've ever thought about that before. In general, Gil Schwartz controls my brain, and Stanley Bing appears when it's time to write his stuff. But I would say that Stanley Bing appreciates all the hard work Gil Schwartz has done to give him a roof over his head. And if I pursued this line of questioning much more, I'll have to check in to a mental institution.


Gennifer from San Francisco, CA: It almost seems ironic that the "Moby Deal" that Lloyd puts together is a merger with a German company, considering that Random House (your publisher) just got bought out by Bertelsmann. I'd like to hear your comments of this publishing acquisition?

Stanley Bing: Believe me, the irony was not lost on my publisher. But Bertelsmann is deeply committed to publishing and has a history of respecting the autonomy of the organizations it acquires. So I think my perception is that there's a good deal of optimism and excitement throughout the organization about what this new owner may bring to the table. Outside the company, the publishing world in general is nervous about growing consolidations. But that consolidation is taking place in every industry right now, and pushing against that is a little like trying to stop a tidal wave with a couple of sandbags.


Gary from Rockville, MD: What do your read to stay current, Mr. Bing? Daily newspapers, web sites, etc. I'm also curious if you know what ever happened to Mr. Finneran, the guy who relieved himself on top of an airplane beverage cart? I was pleasantly reminded of his existence while reading LLOYD: WHAT HAPPENED.

Stanley Bing: Mr. Finneran was my hero for a long time after he committed his incredibly indecent act. I believe that every person who has been in business for a while had a moment of sympathy for Finneran. No, most of us haven't gone that far into the black, but at the same time, most of us have wandered toward the edge a couple of times. And what he did was so splendidly grotesque that I believe his name will live forever. I believe at this time, he's at home in his pajamas, by the way. It's tough to come back from that sort of thing. In answer to your question, I read a strange amalgam of bizarre material. When I'm writing, which is a lot of the time, I read very little serious stuff. But I do love Stephen King, Dick Francis, Robert Parker, Jim Thompson, all the great detective novelists from Poe onward. And I also read a lot of comic books and a depressing number of computer gaming magazines. I'm always in the middle of a game, either on the Nintendo 64 or on the PC, and I'm always looking for a good cheat. I also, of course read a tremendous number of newspapers and periodicals, particularly those concerning my business, which are such overwhelming tedium that to speak of them on the weekend makes me want to weep.


Larry Anderson from Berkeley, CA: Do you like your main character, Lloyd? What do you like about him?

Stanley Bing: Sure, I like Lloyd. I like some things about him better than others, of course. But I guess he's a little too close to me for me to be too analytical about him. He suffers a great deal, Lloyd does. And he never gets away with anything. And if only for that, I do like him. And he's a bit of a jerk, as are we all.


Karen from Santa Monica, CA: Well, the movie question begs to be asked: Will there or won't there be a screen version of LLOYD? I have to say, it would translate into some hilarious dialogue and scenes, especially the elevator scene!

Stanley Bing: Karen, I want you to go to your phone right now and dial Warner Brothers, Fox, or possibly HBO and demand that someone buy this right now. But seriously, there are a few things in the works. And I have hope that a movie will be made, maybe even a good one. I see Tom Hanks as Lloyd, by the way.


Franco from Somerville, MA: Did you find it hard to write a novel as opposed to writing a column? Also, did you need to do any research for Lloyd, or was it all there to begin with?

Stanley Bing: I needed to do a little bit of research for some of the charts, particularly the ones about what Lloyd ate. I did this research by going to the supermarket and buying all the stuff I wanted. When I got that home, I wrote it all down, and then I ate it, and then I made the charts. Writing a book is a lot different than writing a column. But in some ways it's not all that different. The style, the creative impulse, the need to remain focused on the idea at hand, those are the same. Having an attention span that lasts for several years, allowing the characters to discover their own fate, developing themes that transcend the plot, all those things are different and a whole lot of fun.


Sato from New York City: Who was the craziest boss that you ever had, Mr. Bing? What did he do, or what did he expect you to do?

Stanley Bing: Boy, that's a rough one. I've had a lot of bosses who were extreme personalities, distorted by the pressure and the money. But I never worked for Howard Hughes, and none of my bosses every sequestered themselves in their hotel room and grew long fingernails. My crazy bosses were for the most part normal people asked to do pretty abnormal things. I have worked for some really mean SOBs, but that was in the past, and I forgive them now that they are home. Up until now, and I say this while I'm knocking on wood, I have survived all of the guys who at one time or another have driven me crazy. But I will say that some of my favorite bosses and the ones I loved the most were also the craziest.


Animal from Home: Have you seen "The Big One" by Michael Moore? What do you think of it?

Stanley Bing: Yeah, I saw it. I think Michael Moore has incredibly important things to say. Unique, passionate, intelligent things to say that are sometimes marred by his egotistical shenanigans. That's the short review, and I think we'll leave it at that.


Arleth from Greeley, CO: I was irked by the comparison of corporate capitalism and Chinese communism. Do you think the future of business in the millennium is so dim and Orwellian?

Stanley Bing: I think large corporations are not dissimilar to totalitarian countries. Now that's a bit of a humorous conceit, but it's not that far away. And I'm not the first to make that comparison. Brecht made it, Kafka made it, many others have seen the parallels between these two forms of human organization. I also believe very strongly that capitalism on the macro level is forming a new form of international government that we have yet to fully comprehend, and it's some of those very vague ideas that drive the end of the book and possibly a sequel to LLOYD, if one ever happens.


Gail from Augusta, ME: Hello. Is there anybody -- a company or person -- that you admire in business today? Who and why? Thank you for taking my question.

Stanley Bing: I admire a real lot of people in business. I admire IBM, I admire Microsoft, while of course fearing it. I admire my own company, which I'm not going to name. I admire a lot of small companies that have a couple of people working really hard and making it. I admire Intel. I admire Toyota, for making really good automobiles that don't cost an arm and a leg. In general I admire business, I just don't admire everything businesses do. I certainly don't admire things that dehumanize the workplace or that devalue working people.


John from Miami, FL: What does it really take to get to the top? Do you really need to be somebody's buttboy (as you describe Lloyd's relationship to Doug)?

Stanley Bing: No. You don't need to be somebody's buttboy, but a fair amount of sucking up is required and has been required since King Arthur was the CEO and Lancelot wanted to get on his good side. I'm a firm believer in letting senior management know that you think they're terrific. Of course there's a complete art to sucking up with credibility. For that I would refer you to my earlier book, CRAZY BOSSES. Briefly, what it takes to get to the top, I believe, is patience, very hard work, tremendous paranoia that enables you to imagine all horrible eventualities, a capacity for friendship, and a lot of luck. A little insanity and megalomania doesn't hurt either.


Rory from Florida: Hello Stanley, I have two questions for you: 1) How do you overcome writer's block? 2) What are your future plans for writing? Thanks a bunch!!!!

Stanley Bing: I don't have writer's block, because I have deadlines. When I don't have deadlines, I have horrible writer's block, and the only thing that could cure it is the knowledge that if I don't write, I'm in really, really deep trouble. So, while I don't have writer's block, I do hove a gigantic case of procrastination. Seriously, those who want to write should try to find somebody to whip them. When it comes to the future, I plan to continue doing my column in Fortune as long as they'll have me. I'm working on a new novel right now, and I have the first chapter of that finished. And I'm also working on a children's book that's not on deadline, so it'll probably be finished some time in the next ten years. And I don't think a sequel to LLOYD is out of the question.


Moderator: Thank you for joining us this evening, Stanley Bing. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience and readers?

Stanley Bing: I very much appreciate everyone taking the time to come out tonight and chat with me this way. I'm very excited that all of you folks have read LLOYD and thought about LLOYD. We can chat again soon.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2000

    Hilarious, that's What Happened

    What can I say other than I laughed out loud over and over again! Bing's writing captures the emotions in business people that can somehow be driving and skeptical at the same time. His characters are all someone we know in business, love them or loathe them. I thought Lloyd: What Happened was very entertaining reading and would recommended it to anyone.

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